Racy photographs stoke the mayhem and comedy of local playwright D.W. Gregory’s world premiere play, Dirty Pictures, but its true catalyst lies in finding beauty in the ordinary and overlooked.
At least that’s the philosophy of Chet (Matthew Lindsay Payne), a regular at a down-at-the-boot heels bar in Greeley, Colorado in 1982. He’s a laid-off, blue collar Zen master, offering up New Age axioms about “finding your balance” and “releasing negativity” while mooching beers off Judy (Allison Sarah Burrell ), a tough, tired and disillusioned bartender/waitress with a disability that she tries to compensate for through endless toil.
Judy doesn’t let her disability get in the way of doing a good job, but it does interfere with her seeing herself as someone deserving of love. She’s totally jonesing for Dan (Terrance Fleming), the amiable bar owner, who only has eyes—and they are green with jealousy—for Bonnie (Chara Bauer ), a young waitress with a rocking bod and the kind of looks that makes men forget their own dang names, and who has aspirations to be a Playboy centerfold. Hence, the nudie pics.
Chet courts Judy with artistic photographs he’s taken of old tires and other cast-asides, hoping that she will get the connection and realize that he holds her beauty and allure in crisp focus. But all Judy wants to do is moon over Dan, and when the opportunity arises to dirty-dog Bonnie, she grabs it.
Dirty Pictures depicts a long night of drinking, bad decisions and stupidity—and there’s even a barroom brawl, which comically shows the difference between male and female fighting styles. And the play also interestingly plays up what women want versus what men want.
Although Judy considers Bonnie her bubble-headed nemesis, they both want the same thing—to be seen as they really are. Judy wants people to look beyond her cane and disability and view her as a desirable, multi-faceted woman. There’s a telling scene showing Judy’s wild side when she grabs the whipped cream canister off the bar before ducking in the back office for a bit of hanky-panky.
closes October 21, 2018
Details and tickets
Bonnie knows she’s gorgeous and that most men are content to stop there. Even Dan, who when faced with the question “What do you know about me?” answers “You’re beautiful, Bonnie.” (For men taking notes, this is the wrong answer). She knows there’s more to her than that and wants others to see it too.
So in essence, Bonnie and Judy want what the other one has. As for the men, they want someone to talk to and make their lives less lonely. They don’t worry a whit about being seen, because with Chet and Dan, what you see is what you get so what’s the big deal.
[adsanity_rotating align=”aligncenter” time=”10″ group_id=”1455″ /]
All these missed cues and love triangles make Dirty Pictures ripe fodder for comedy and for the most part, the cast nails it, although the pace could be zanier to make it truly screwball. Allison Sarah Burrell is particularly fine as Judy, who seems like a sour drudge when you first meet her but then becomes more alive and unpredictable as she bares her heart. Terrance Fleming also shines as Dan, the good-looking good buddy everyone either wants or wants to be.
There’s plenty of nostalgic fun to be had in the 1982 setting—the midst of the great Reagan recession when things were crappy all across the country. When a bar does badly, you know things really bite. But the denizens of this dusty old dive in Colorado make do with cheap beer, 80s pop hits on the jukebox, taking their photos to Fotomat to be processed (remember that?) and taking calls on the rotary phone resting on the bar. You think about Bonnie’s nudie pix dilemma and how it would play out now—posts going viral, cyber-bullying, instant fame that lasts less than 15 minutes.
In these chaotic times, it’s enjoyable to see plays like Dirty Pictures and be reminded that layoffs, economic downturns and other general awfulness are cyclic and although it doesn’t seem like it now, this too shall pass.
Dirty Pictures by D.W. Gregory . Director: Lance Bankerd . Featuring: Matthew Lindsay Payne, Allison Sarah Burrell. Chara Bauer. Terrance Fleming. Fight Choreographer: Brad Norris. Intimacy Choreographer: Betse Lyons, WeHUB. Set Designer: S. Lee Lewis. Lighting Designer: Daniel Weissglass. Photographer/Projection Designer: Stephen Hoppe. Sound Designer: Max Garner. Stage Manager: Hannah Fogler. Produced by Rapid Lemon Productions . Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.